A recent Marketing Week
article covering our June Big Data and
Creativity Conference features the case study of the Caravan
Club and the issues it faces in dealing with the large quantities
of data it generates. According to Tony Lewis, their Head of
Member Marketing, they find it difficult to squeeze out the full
value of the data collected from different sources. I really
liked his comment that "not until you work out what shape to mould
it into, does it take any shape and make sense."
The sculpture metaphor is particularly apt and captures much of
the thinking that came out of our Conference. I couldn't have
said it better myself: it really is about creativity and art!
Whether it's about deciding what data to collect, what questions to
ask of the data, how it will be used, how to interpret it or
how to communicate it, it really is a question of "moulding" it
into a valuable, actionable resource. It's about taking rows
of numbers and turning them into real-life insights into human
emotions and preferences; it's about inferring intentions from
behaviours, trends, oddities, contradictions. Without the
touch of the sculptor, the data remains like cold, damp clay:
inanimate, uninspired and of little value.
Another perspective in the Marketing Week article comes from
Marie Myles, Director of Analytics and Consulting at Experian
Marketing Services. She points to the hype surrounding Big
Data and compares it to the fate of CRM systems in many
companies. The potential is there, but the plot gets lost
when ownership is left in the hands of IT professionals.
Trust me, I have nothing against IT professionals! They're
the ones who make it possible for us to get our hands on the data
in the first place. But in the same way that we don't have
newspaper printers create advertising campaigns, we need to bring
data to those who can not only mould it, but also use it!
Data belongs in the decision-making process. This point was
driven home repeatedly during our one-day conference.
Speaking of process, specifically, creative process - are we
talking "top-down" or "bottom-up"? Do we start with a burning
business question and find the data that helps answer it, or do we
find nuggets of data that help make intelligent business
decisions? Well, it seems that great artists work both
ways. Sometimes inspiration comes from beautiful material,
other times it's driven by a clear vision of the finished
masterpiece. My experience is that the same goes for data -
top-down, or bottom-up - both can deliver great results.
When we first set out to organize our Big Data and Creativity
Conference, we were met with some skepticism - Big Data and
Creativity??? Well, not only did the subject resonate strongly with
our guest speakers, but I'm encouraged to see that people like Tony
Lewis and Marie Myles are confirming our hunch - once you migrate
it beyond the realm of pure analytics and add a sprinkle of
creativity, Big Data opens up a world of insights for creative
marketers looking to better understand their customers and to make